DAY 1 TBILISI ARRIVAL & CITY TOUR
Arrival to Tbilisi International Airport in the afternoon. Meet your Phoenix Tour representative in Georgia. Transfer to the hotel. Check in. Start exploring Tbilisi, the capital and the largest city of Georgia. Stop by one of the city’s iconic spots, the Abanotubani District, renowned for its sulfur baths. These subterranean bathhouses date back to the 17th century and have been a favorite for travelers to the city.
Take a cable car to the 4th century Narikala Fortress, and get a superb panoramic view of Tbilisi, with its hanging houses, the historic 13th century Metekhi Church and the gold-topped modern Sameba Cathedral. Views also sweep down to the glass Bridge of Peace, the gorge of the Mtkvari River (Kura River) and the picturesque spurs of the Trialeti Range. Take a walk along the fortress, and you’ll pass by the feet of the Mother Georgia monument, the celebrated symbol of Tbilisi.
Visit the 6th century Sioni Cathedral. The most significant relic of the cathedral is the venerated Grapevine Cross, which, according to a tradition, was forged by Saint Nino, a Cappadocian woman who preached Christianity in Georgia in the early 4th century. The Cross of St. Nino, according to legend, is made from the vine branches bound with the saint’s own hair. Visit on a Sunday morning and enjoy the singing by the Sioni Boys’ Choir.
Continue to the 13th century Metekhi Church and monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali, the legendary founder of Tbilisi. Stroll through the Shardeni Street, an area with cozy cafés, wine tasting bars and souvenir shops. Stop by the glass Bridge of Peace over the Mtkvari River (Kura River) and take a leisurely stroll along Rustaveli Avenue. Overnight in Tbilisi.
DAY 2 TBILISI – MTSKHETA – GORI – UPLISTSIKHE – TBILISI
Breakfast. Drive to Mtskheta and Jvari Complex. Mtskheta is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and has been Georgia’s spiritual heart since Christianity was established here in about 327 AD, and holds a near-mystical significance in Georgian culture.
Visit the 17th century Jvari Monastery, visible for miles around on its hilltop, overlooking Mtskheta from the east (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Jvari stands on the spot, where the King Mirian erected a sacred wooden cross, soon after his conversion by St. Nino in the 4th century.
Visit the splendid 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, where the Robe of Jesus Christ is believed to be buried (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Continue to Gori, the town where the Joseph Stalin was born and went to school. Visit the large museum devoted to Stalin, the Gori’s best known attraction.
Drive to the ancient cave town of Uplistsikhe, some 10 kilometers east of the town of Gori. Uplistsikhe played a significant role in Georgian history over a period of approximately 3,000 years, relating to a Sun Goddess, worshipped prior to the arrival of Christianity. Return to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.
DAY 3 TBILISI – ANANURI – GUDAURI – JVARI PASS – KAZBEGI – GERGETI – TBILISI
Breakfast. Take the historic Georgian Military Road across the Caucasus Mountains to Kazbegi - a major route through the Caucasus from Georgia to Russia.
Visit the 17th century Ananuri Castle, the seat of power of medieval Georgian dukes of Aragvi, and one of the most scenic fortresses of Georgia. You may climb up to the tallest of the fortress towers for fine views.
Continue to the ski resort of Gudauri, whose bare hillsides make for Georgia’s best downhill ski runs. Stop at the Jvari Pass (Pass of the Cross) - the highest point of the Georgia Military Road, where it reaches its maximum altitude of 2,379m above the sea level. The views are magnificent, and the air is of a purity that will make city dwellers weep!
Drive to Kazbegi, a valley town at about 1,750m above sea level, and just a few miles short of the Russian border. Near the village of Gergeti, take a local 4x4 jeep to make it up the hill to visit the 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church. During the dark times, the precious relics from Mtskheta, including the St. Nino's Cross were taken here for safekeeping. Enjoy the views of the snowy peak of Mt. Kazbek. Return to Tbilisi. Overnight in Tbilisi.
DAY 4 TBILISI – BAGRATASHEN – HAGHPAT – DILIJAN – LAKE SEVAN – YEREVAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to the Georgia-Armenia border and arrive at the Sadakhlo-Bagratashen border crossing. After border formalities, change the guide and transportation and start the Armenian part of the tour. Drive to Alaverdi, the largest city in the Debed Canyon, an area rich with historical monuments and natural beauty.
Visit the outstanding example of Armenian medieval religious architecture, the 10th century Haghpat Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site). There is a number of splendid khachkars standing on the territory the monastery, among them is the best known “Amenaprkich” (All-Savior) khachkar, which has been standing there since 1273.
Drive to Dilijan, a resort town renowned for its charming nature and some traditional Armenian architecture. Stroll through the cobbled Sharambeyan Street, with its collection of stone and wooden traditional buildings, restaurants, souvenir stalls and workshops.
Continue to Lake Sevan. Sevan is one of the largest high-mountain freshwater lakes in the world. The lake's proximity to Yerevan, combined with cooler summer temperatures, picturesque coastline and historical sights, make it one of the key places to visit in Armenia. Walk up to the 8th century monastery of Sevanavank on Sevan peninsula, one of Armenia’s iconic landmarks.
Drive to Yerevan. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Yerevan.
DAY 5 YEREVAN – GEGHARD – GARNI – SYMPHONY OF STONES – YEREVAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to one of the most beautiful monasteries in Armenia, the 13th century cave monastery of Geghard (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The name of the monastery originates from the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and currently stored amongst many other relics in the Echmiadzin's Cathedral Museum.
Drive to the masterpiece of Hellenistic architecture in Armenia, the pagan temple of the Sun in Garni. Garni Temple was built in the 1st century AD by the Armenian King Trdat with the money he received after visiting the emperor Nero in Rome, and was dedicated to the Sun God Mithra. The temple was destroyed in 1679 in an earthquake, but was reconstructed in Soviet times.
Take a local 4x4 jeep down to the bottom of the Garni gorge, where the unique natural monument the “Symphony of Stones” is located. Usually, visitors must walk or take a local transfer, as our buses do not make trips down there. This landmark consists of huge basalt pillars hanging above the ground at a height of about 50 meters. Their special shape in the form of hexagons and their vertical arrangement are very reminiscent of organ pipes, in connection with which the monument is known as the “Symphony of Stones”.
Return to Yerevan. Start exploring Yerevan, the Armenia’s capital city and one of the oldest cities in the world. Stop at the Victory Park and Mother Armenia monument to get a spectacular view of the Biblical Mt. Ararat with a panorama of central Yerevan.
Take a walking tour of the Cascade complex, with its Sculpture Park and Cafesjian Center for the Arts. The Cascade is a massive white stairway up a hillside in central Yerevan, decorated with green stretches, fountains and waterfalls, that run uphill and crowned with the obelisk of the “Revived Armenia”.
Visit the magnificent building of the Opera House, the postmodern Northern Avenue and the city's main Republic Square. Be sure to return to Republic Square after dark to see the "Dancing Fountains", a choreographed water show synched with lights and music (the fountains are on from May until the end of October). Overnight in Yerevan.
DAY 6 YEREVAN – ECHMIADZIN – ZVARTNOTS – YEREVAN
Breakfast. Drive to Echmiadzin, the heart of Armenian Christianity and the administrative center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Visit the churches of St. Hripsime and St. Gayane.
The 7th century St. Hripsime Church is one of the famous ecclesiastical buildings in the city of Echmiadzin (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The church is notable with its architectural simplicity and loftiness, and the tomb of the Christian martyr Virgin Hripsime is located in the small mausoleum beneath the sacristy of the church.
The 7th century church of St. Gayane was constructed over the tomb of Virgin Gayane, who was martyred for preaching Christianity in Armenia (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Visit the Echmiadzin Cathedral, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, built by St. Gregory the Illuminator in 303 AD (UNESCO World Heritage Site). On Sundays you can take part in the colorful service of the Holy Liturgy, which attracts many visitors and pilgrims from all over the world.
Visit the Echmiadzin Cathedral's Museum, where amongst other relics, you can see the Holy Spear, with which Jesus Christ was pierced on the Cross, a fragment of Noah's Ark, the kneecap of John the Baptist, a particle of the Cross on which Jesus was crucified, and the fragment of the Savior's crown of thorns.
Drive back to Yerevan. En route to Yerevan visit the ruins of the 7th century Zvartnots Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Originally built to be the tallest church in the world at the time, and to last for 1,000 years (a projected date for the second coming of Christ), the Zvartnots was destroyed by a powerful earthquake in the 9th century.
Drive back to Yerevan. En route to Yerevan visit ruins of the 7th century Zvartnots Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Zvartnots Cathedral was destroyed by an earthquake in 930 AD, and was lost to history until its discovery in the early 20th century.
Return to Yerevan. Visit the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex on the hills of Tsitsernakaberd. The Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex houses both the Armenian Genocide Museum, and the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial.
Visit one of the richest depositories of manuscripts and books in the world, the Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. It’s a great place to get a sense of the Armenian history, culture and connectedness to the world heritage.
Stop at the popular farmers market “Gumi Shuka” to buy traditional sweets and dried fruits. The aromas and colors of the local produce will add up to a wonderful and unique experience. Overnight in Yerevan.
DAY 7 YEREVAN – KHOR VIRAP – NORAVANK – ARENI WINERY – TATEV – GORIS
Breakfast. Drive to Khor Virap Monastery, located on the foothills of the Biblical Mount Ararat, where it reveals its breathtaking size and splendor. Khor Virap, located a few hundred meters from the border with Turkey, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Armenia, primarily because it was here, that the Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the future head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, was imprisoned in a deep dungeon for 13 years. To this day you can visit this dungeon, located under the St. Gevorg Chapel.
Continue to the masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture, the 13th century Noravank Monastery. Set in the spectacular valley of red rocks, the monastery built out of the local stone, blends into the background of the molten red gorge, that contrasts with the stark blue sky.
Continue in the Vayots Dzor Province, which is Armenia’s most storied wine growing region. Stopover for wine tasting at the local winery in Areni village, which is famous for its delicious dry red wine. Areni is marked by spectacular cliffs and caves, where archaeologists found evidence in one of the caves of the very first winery in the world.
Drive to one of the most spectacular and impressive places in Armenia, the 9th century Tatev Monastery. Built on a fairy tale natural fortress of rock on the edge of the Vorotan Canyon, Tatev is one of the jaw-dropping sights in Armenia.
Take the cable car "Wings of Tatev" from the Halidzor village to the magnificent complex of Tatev, which passes over the serpentine roads with the breathtaking views of Syunik mountains. The "Wings of Tatev" built by the Swiss company, is included in the Guinness Book of World Records as world’s longest non-stop double track cable car, clocking in at around 5,7 km with 12 minutes ride.
Continue to Goris. The endlessly winding roads that leap through the gorges over the mountains of Syunik come to a major junction at Goris, making this an inevitable stop between Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Iran. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Goris.
DAY 8 GORIS – MEGHRI – AGARAK – JOLFA – TABRIZ
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to the Armenia-Iran border. Arrive in Meghri. Meghri is the last Armenian major center and the gateway for those entering Iran. Visit the 17th century beautiful St. Sargis Basilica, which absolutely covered in bright frescoes inside.
Continue to the Agarak-Nordooz border crossing. After border formalities, change the guide and transportation, and start the Iranian part of the tour. Drive to Tabriz. En route to Tabriz stop at Jolfa, a bustling border town, that connects the Islamic Republic of Iran both with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Visit the 9th century St. Stepanos Monastery, an Armenian monastery, situated in a deep canyon along the Araks River (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Many Armenian historians believe that the first church on the site was built in the 1st century by St. Bartholomew, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Continue to Tabriz. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Tabriz.
DAY 9 TABRIZ CITY TOUR – TABRIZ SHIRAZ DOMESTIC FLIGHT
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Start exploring Tabriz, the second largest city of Iran and important commercial center of Persia since antiquity. Visit the hugely popular Bazaar of Tabriz, one of the oldest bazaars of the Middle East, and the largest covered bazaar in the world (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Transfer to Tabriz International Airport and take a domestic flight to Shiraz. Arrival to Shiraz International Airport in the evening. Transfer to the hotel. Check in. Overnight in Shiraz.
DAY 10 SHIRAZ – PERSEPOLIS – SHIRAZ CITY TOUR
Breakfast. Travel back in time and visit the Persepolis, one of the major tourist sites in Iran, and one of the most majestic ancient monuments in the world, the capital of the Achaemenid Kings of Persia (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Return to Shiraz. Start exploring Shiraz, the treasure trove of Persian culture. Shiraz was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and the capital of the country during the reign of the Zand dynasty (16-18 centuries), when it reached its heyday. In many medieval literary works, Shiraz is depicted as a city of science, poetry, roses and wine.
Visit the citadel of Karim Khan, built in 1767. The fortress was used for different purposes different in different periods of history. For example, during the Zand period it was the seat of a padishah, and during the Pahlavi period it turned into a prison. Currently, it is a museum operated by Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization.
Visit the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque built in 1888, also known as the Pink Mosque. The designers used extensively stained glass on the facade and other traditional elements, which create a breathtaking effect of the interior, like standing inside a kaleidoscope.
Continue to the historic Persian Garden of Eram (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Eram is one of the most famous and beautiful Persian gardens in all of Iran. With its refreshing air, lovely flowers, fragrant myrtles and tall cypress trees, it's easy to see why Eram calls for such a description.
Visit the 14th century Shah Cheragh Mausoleum, is one of the most beautiful mosques and an important pilgrimage center of the city of Shiraz. The tombs of Amir Ahmad and his brother Mir Muhammad, sons of the seventh Imam, are covered with millions of pieces of colored glass, that glitter in the light and magnify its brilliance a thousand times.
Visit the Mausoleum of Hafez (1324-1391), one of the greatest masters of Persian lyric poetry and the literary giant of the 14th century in the west and central Asia. Visitors to the tomb can still, as they have done for centuries, sit by his tomb and read his sonnets. Overnight in Shiraz.
DAY 11 SHIRAZ – PASARGAD – YAZD
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Visit the ruins of the ancient Persian city of Pasargad (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Pasargad was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great, who had issued its construction in 559-530 BC, as it was also the location of his tomb, the most important monument in Pasargad.
Drive to Yazd, an architecturally unique city and the center of Zoroastrianism, which dominated Persia before the arrival of Islam. The scenery on the journey will range from verdant valleys, jagged mountains, and a flat deep desert with some moonscape vistas. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Yazd.
DAY 12 YAZD CITY TOUR – MEYBOD – ISFAHAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Start exploring Yazd, a home to Iran’s second largest population of Zoroastrians. The ancient city of Yazd can lay claim to being one of the oldest, continuously inhabited places on earth.
Yazd will make you feel like you have been transported into another time, with its labyrinth of narrow streets of the old city, wandering along which you can feel like an ancient traveler who fell into an oriental fairy tale. On the streets of Yazd, you will find a number of the weaving workshops in which the world's best silk fabrics are born, the ones that once struck the imagination of Marco Polo himself.
In order to enjoy the splendid Islamic architecture, visit the magnificent 14th century Jameh Mosque (Friday Mosque) with its with its tiled entrance portal and two towering minarets, considered the tallest in Iran.
Visit one of the echoes of this city's past - Zindan Iskander (the prison of Alexander the Great). Eskandar Prison is an ancient domed structure, alleged by some to have been built by Alexander the Great to hold his captives during his conquest of Persia, and alleged by others to have been built by the Persians to hold Alexander himself.
Visit the 14th century Amir Chakhmagh Complex. The stunning three-storey facade of this religious complex makes it one of the largest such structures in Iran. It includes a square with flower beds, an entrance to the bazaar, a public bath, a caravanserai, a cold water well and an oriental pastry shop. Look out for the huge wooden palm Nakhl, an important centerpiece once used in the observance of the Shiites’ passionate Ashura commemorations.
Visit the Yazd Atashkadeh Fire Temple, where Zoroastrians from all over the world come to see the sacred fire that has been burning without interruption for 1,500 years. The sacred fire can be seen through a small window in the central hall.
Drive to Isfahan, the Iran’s number one tourist destination. Stop by the Narin Castle, a mud brick castle in the town of Meybod. Explore the old part of Naeen desert city. Continue to Isfahan. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Isfahan.
DAY 13 ISFAHAN CITY TOUR
Breakfast. Start exploring Isfahan, the pearl of ancient Persia and one of the most beautiful cities in the Islamic world.
Visit the 17th century Chehel Sotoun (The Forty Pillars) Pavillion. Built in 1647, Chehel Sotoun is a pavilion in the middle of a garden, covering 67,000 square meters at the far end of a long rectangular shaped pool. Chehel Sotun has long been used to receive distinguished guests - diplomats, ambassadors, as well as for official ceremonies. The palace is now a museum of Safavid paintings and ceramics, which attracts numerous visitors.
Visit the magnificent Ali Kapu Palace, one of the top attractions in Iran. It was built at the beginning of the 17th century by the order of Shah Abbas. Here the Shah celebrated Navruz for the first time. The palace is decorated with carved wooden columns, and the ceilings are studded with semi-precious stones. This six-storey palace also served as a monumental gateway to the royal palaces that lay in the parklands beyond.
Visit the Naqsh'e Jahan Square, the second biggest square in the world, after Beijing's Tianamen Square. During the reign of Shah Abbas I and his successors, this square was an area where festivities, polo, dramatics and military parades took place. Nowadays it is almost completely covered up with fountains, and on weekdays there is an active trade in souvenirs (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Visit the Vank Armenian Cathedral in Isfahan. The Holy Savior Cathedral, also known as the Church of the Saintly Sisters, is one of the largest and most beautiful churches of Iran, rich with frescoes and tile work. The building’s structure combines traditional Armenian architectural styles with the region’s Islamic architecture.
Visit the Khaju and Siosepol bridges. The Khaju Bridge, besides having a beautiful golden look during the night, also serves as a dam, with sluice gates under the archways. The Siosepol Bridge, translated as the bridge of 33 arches, is one of the most famous bridges in the world, renowned for its beauty and for the remarkable architecture, and one of the most famous sites in Iran. Overnight in Isfahan.
DAY 14 ISFAHAN – KASHAN – TEHRAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to Tehran. En route to Tehran stop at Kashan town and visit the 19th century historic Borujerdi House Museum. The Borujerdi House was built in 1857 by architect Ustad Ali Maryam for the bride of Borujerdi, a wealthy merchant.
Continue to Fin Garden. Fin Garden is a historical Persian garden. In keeping with many of the Persian gardens of this era, the Fin Garden employs a great many water features. The canals are lined with blue-green tiles, a color which contrasts wonderfully with the desert outside the garden walls. Continue to Tehran. Check into hotel. Overnight in Tehran.
DAY 15 TEHRAN CITY TOUR & DEPARTURE
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Start exploring Teharn, the capital and the largest city of Iran. Take a tour of the National Museum of Iran. It is the best place to see the history of the Persia through preserved ancient and medieval Persian antiquities.
Visit the 18th century Golestan Palace. The "Palace of Flowers" is a true masterpiece of the Qajar era, one the oldest of all historic monuments in the capitol of the Islamic Republic (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Take a tour of the famous Grand Bazaar. Historic, expansive, and dizzying, Tehran’s Grand Bazaar consists of over 10 kilometers of labyrinthine covered alleys, and is divided up into sections selling different types of product.
Visit Iran’s National Jewelry Treasury. Most of the royal jewelry of Iran is on display in this museum from Safavid, Afsharid, Ghajarid and Pahlavid dynasties such as the Darya-ye-Noor diamond (The Sea of Light), The Naderi Paisley, The Crown of Queen Farah Pahlavi, The Kiyani Crown, The Gemmed Globe, The Peacock Bed (Ghajarid) (The Sun Bed), and many others.
Transfer to Imam Khomeini International Airport. Departure from Tehran.